Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Steinberg and Leibler - Cavalry Support in the Battle against the Tel Aviv University Left!
The Jihad of Israel's Academic Left against Freedom of Speech
Right of Reply: Israel's academic Left on the attack
By GERALD STEINBERG
Seizing on fringe amendments long dropped from the discussion, the campaign against a law to ensure the public's 'right to know' is distorted as a defense of free speech.
Claiming to be under unprecedented threat, the powerful Israel academic Left has launched fierce counter-attacks on enemies, real and imagined, among which I and NGO Monitor are included prominently. Prof. David Newman has lashed out repeatedly in The Jerusalem Post ("Bashing the academic left," April 14, 2009; "Who's monitoring the monitor?" November 30, 2009; "The politics of delegitimization" February 9; and again in a May 11 op-ed, coauthored with Sharon Pardo). After Newman was elected by like-minded colleagues as dean at Ben-Gurion University, he used an interview in the Post ("How to make the next Buber, May 11, 2010) to repeat the attacks.
Others involved in this ideological trench warfare include Prof. Daniel Bar-Tal. In a conference at Tel Aviv University, allegedly focused on academic free speech in the context of conflict, Bar-Tal condemned imagined "right-wing" McCarthyite threats to Israeli democracy and freedom of speech. The list of speakers also included, Prof. Galia Golan (Peace Now), Newman and Prof. Naomi Chazan, head of the controversial New Israel Fund. Chazan passionately wrapped herself in the bandages of victimization, while saying nothing when I presented the examples of how the NIF and partner organizations seek to silence their critics.
For this group, the right to free speech only applies to the Left. Their protests over the government's misguided attempt to keep radical Prof. Noam Chomsky from visiting Bir Zeit University would be more credible if they had not sought to silence Alan Dershowitz. The Harvard professor criticized the use of classrooms for political indoctrination at Tel Aviv University recently.
Other allegations in this campaign attack a fictitious version of a draft Knesset law on transparency for foreign government funding provided to Israeli nongovernmental organizations. A number of these NGOs support the Goldstone process, as well as the boycotts, divestment and sanctions campaign. But such core dimensions are all erased from the complaints. Instead, seizing on fringe amendments long dropped from the discussion, the campaign against a law to ensure the public's "right to know" is distorted as a defense of free speech.
NOT COINCIDENTALLY, many Leftist academics benefit directly from these highly secretive processes. For example, next week, Newman is a prominent speaker at a conference on "The External Relations of the European Union."
Looking at the program, observers might conclude that the participants were chosen from a narrow spectrum, perhaps to avoid serious academic debate. And coinciding with this conference, Newman's latest op-ed ("Doomed to succeed," May 11, with Sharon Pardo) lashes out yet again. This version warns darkly that "the recent attacks on the EU and its funding of civil society and human rights organizations and NGOs" will result in Israel's expulsion from "the family of nations for whom democracy and free speech constitute the most basic of common values."
In this demagoguery, the authors also hid the fact that this European money goes exclusively to leftist causes, and not to the wider Israeli civil society in whose name they claim to speak. Similarly, the use of the label "human rights organizations" often hides the abuses of these principles, as highlighted in the tendentious accusations of "war crimes."
More broadly, the very concept of an "academic Left" that Newman and others claim to defend is wrongheaded. Universities exist to teach students to think for themselves and to pursue knowledge, debunk myths and encourage debate, in contrast to the doctrinal nature of religion and ideology. An academic Left is as absurd as an academic Right – both ideological straitjackets are antithetical to the pursuit of knowledge and vigorous debate.
Such frameworks, which dominate European campuses and are spreading to the US, are inconsistent with complexity, open thought and substantive debate. This alternative universe has no room for intelligent people, including open-minded rationalists who seek a wide range of evidence, and analyze it openly and not through ideological filters.
All of this is entirely inconsistent with the values and professional ethics that provide the foundations for academic endeavors, and the privileged status of university professors. Instead of attacking the Right or Left for their views, real and imagined, we are supposed to welcome important debates to clarify complex issues needed to distinguish between scientifically supported theories and bunk. Unfortunately, in many areas, the ideological cant has overwhelms substantive debate.
The writer is on the political science faculty at Bar-Ilan University and president of NGO Monitor.
Degenerate Israeli Academics on the Rampage
Posted by Isi Leibler on May 18th, 2010
In the politically correct world of infantile leftism, words like sedition and disloyalty have effectively been erased from the political lexicon. Indeed, those daring to employ such terms are automatically smeared as "McCarthyite" or fascist.
But despite Israel being surrounded by Moslem nations whose primary objective is to eliminate Jewish sovereignty from the region, a growing minority of Israeli academics, funded by Israeli taxpayers and Diaspora Zionist philanthropists, exploit their universities as launching pads to undermine and delegitimize their own country. Some even promote global boycott, divestment and sanctions of the very institutions which provide their salaries. They teach their students that the state in which they live was born in sin, that Israelis behave like Nazis and morally justify the campaigns by our enemies to demonize and delegitimize us.
What magnifies this obscenity is that university administrators feel obliged to maintain the continued tenure of such immoral and anti-social degenerates on the grounds of academic freedom. Can one conceivably visualize any other institution providing salaries to employees actively working towards its destruction?
The issue came to a head at the recent meeting of the Board of Governors of Tel Aviv University when Marc Tanenbaum, a long-standing American donor and supporter, submitted a resolution calling on the University Senate to review conditions governing the status of academics indulging in "inappropriate behavior" such as promoting academic boycotts of Israeli universities, and recommending that academics be prohibited from listing their affiliation or academic titles whilst engaged in domestic or international forums of a political nature.
The president, Professor Joseph Klaffter, intervened. Grasping the microphone from Tannenbaum, he railed against the resolution and proclaimed that under his watch such a resolution would never be carried and demanded that it be withdrawn. When the initiators called for a vote, he refused to submit the resolution and adjourned the meeting - ironically, on the spurious grounds of academic freedom. Tannenbaum resigned and pledged to mount a campaign to highlight the undemocratic manner in which the university authorities were protecting those who were actively undermining the university and the State.
Regrettably, the TAU scenario represents a microcosm of how the loony left have imposed a regime of madness in this country. It is noteworthy that Anat Kam, who exulted in stealing classified IDF military information in the name of freedom of expression and attempted to present herself as a heroic figure, was educated at TAU, in a philosophy department in which professors called for a global boycott against Israel.
Examples of unacceptable behavior abound: the Chair of the Philosophy Department, Professor Anat Biletzki, is a close supporter of Asmi Bishari ,the Arab MK calling for the dismantling of Israel; Biletzki also gathered signatures for a high school student petition justifying the right to refuse to serve in the army; Anat Matar, another lecturer at the philosophy department, initiated an (unsuccessful) campaign to deny the right of Col. Pnina Sharvit-Baruch, who headed the international IDF law division during the Gaza war, to lecture at its law school on the grounds that she would "justify the killing of civilians, including hundreds of children"; the Law School convened a conference on the subject of the alleged mistreatment of "political prisoners" at which one of the principal speakers was a former terrorist who had been sentenced to 27 years for throwing a bomb at Jews on a bus; Professor Adi Ophir campaigned to lobby embassies in Tel Aviv to impose sanctions against Israel to prevent atrocities in Gaza; TAU academics were prominent signatories in a petition backing the US Berkeley boycott against Israel; two professors, Anat Matar (who earlier participated in a London conference promoting a general and academic boycott of Israel) and Rachel Giora recently signed a petition denouncing The Boston Museum of Art for sponsoring an exhibit of Israeli medical and high tech achievements; etc etc.
Freedom of expression is a treasured feature of democracy but the dividing line must be drawn between academic freedom and breaching the law or indulging in subversive activity. Some liberals like Alan Dershowitz believe that students have "the right not to be propagandized by the classroom by teachers who seek to impose their ideology" and oppose the exploitation of universities by academics as anti-Israeli launching pads, but still insist that lecturers should never be limited even if they promote false narratives which poison the minds of the students and encourage them to hate their own country. Dershowitz believes that the danger of limiting such activity exceeds the damage that can be inflicted and is confident that ultimately truth will prevail.
But that does not justify those who delegitimize and demonize their country being provided tenure of employment. Setting aside the fact that in most societies under siege such behavior would be defined as subversive, I question whether for example such an approach would apply to an academic telling his students that Arabs are racially inferior or that Hitler's genocidal policies were justified. Or for that matter would academics insisting that the world is flat still be assured tenure in the name of academic freedom? I vouch that such people would soon be out of their jobs and justifiably so.
But in this crazy environment it is only the mad left which claims to be victimized when their unconscionable behavior is exposed. For example, in a petition signed by over 80 TAU faculty members, Alan Dershowitz was denounced for indulging in "incitement" for having described as "hypocritical Stalinists", academics like Rachel Giora and Anat Matar who support boycotts of Israel. Professor Hannah Wirth-Nesher went so far as to accuse Dershowitz of seeking to impose Teheran standards on Tel Aviv. Hebrew University Professor Shlomo Avineri observed that "the attempt to 'protect' those who belong to the left whilst employing McCarthy like methods against those associated with the right is nothing but hypocrisy, which has no place in academia".
Regrettably the State has failed to act in this area because it has become intimidated by the term academic freedom. Likewise out of fear of being labeled McCarthyites or fascists, the Knesset has also been loath to do anything.
I have no doubt that opinion polls would confirm that the overwhelming majority of Israelis would vehemently agree that there are red lines beyond which academic freedom should not be permitted to justify antisocial or subversive behavior such as calling for the boycott of the state.
Universities are the incubators in which future leaders of society are nurtured. It is surely elementary common sense to ensure that such institutions lead the way for constructive participation in civil life. Academics should not be above the law or permitted to engage in anti-social activities on the grounds of academic freedom.
It is a disgrace that we have reached such a deplorable state of affairs under successive governments. Such activities would never have been tolerated under the social democratic Mapai hegemony and I have no doubt that our founding Prime Minister David Ben Gurion, a genuine Labor Zionist, would have turned the country upside down to bring an end to such outrageous behavior.
A slightly shortened version of this piece will be published by YNet
3. The Anti-Zionist Hypocrisy: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3890442,00.html
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